Until recently, I hadn’t been a regular reader of 2000AD for close to 20 years. I’d dive into the odd Special and Annual issues here and there to read one-off stories, but I hadn’t been keeping up with the weekly series for a long time. Mostly, it’s because you’ll often pick up an issue of 2000AD when at least a few of the stories within are in the middle of their runs – and it can be quite a baffling experience, even if you read a few in a row.
Zombo was one of those series that I’d managed to catch odd snippets of and I was always completely lost as to what was going on; though it was clear that the main character was an appealingly, almost charmingly polite zombie and the artwork was always phenomenal – thanks to the ever-reliable Henry Flint – I could just never get my head around what was actually going on.
After reading this volume, which collects Zombo’s first adventures – I have a bit more of an idea of his origins at least, but it can still be a bewildering read. Part of that is due to Al Ewing’s incredibly inventive script, which throws a ridiculous amount of ideas into each of the stories featured. The story begins with a craft crashing onto a ‘Deathworld’ – a sort of sentient planet which sets out to kill any human lifeforms by any means possible, including lethal flora and fauna – and, though the setup initially seems to satirise TV show Lost, it soon veers into much more explicitly sci-fi and horror territory. Zombo is a government super weapon, created to withstand Deathworlds and to destroy the ‘Death Shadow’, a weapon deployed by the Government in a failed attempt to control the Deathworld that the characters (seemingly) accidentally crash land on.
There’s an awful lot going on in the stories featured here. Ideas, concepts, gags and gore fly thick and fast – it’s a challenge to keep up with everything and the tone is all over the place. However, much of the comic is very tongue in cheek and darkly comedic, but the more horrific elements really stand out; in particular, an encounter with some extremely hungry cannibals – which is pretty shocking and somewhat graphic. There are a number celebrities being lampooned – Russell Brand and Simon Cowell are two that really stick out – and plenty of terrible humans who, frankly, may even deserve their fate, as horrific as it can sometimes be.
Zombo himself is an entertaining character, but doesn’t always feel as if he’s the protagonist; often, it feels as if he’s just there, doing his thing. His design – particularly his Cameo ‘Word Up’-inspired red codpiece – is great though; this goes back to the artwork being really well done and is certainly a big part of what makes the series worth checking out.
I’m still not sure if I liked Zombo though, even after reading the entire volume. It’s stuffed full of unlikable characters and, though that’s part of what makes their comeuppance almost justified, still doesn’t make for a particularly appealing read. I’m keen to check out further adventures of the polite undead superweapon, but at this stage I’m not entirely sold on the series.
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